Posted by: Scott | December 21, 2009

Filling the Big Empty Room

“Y-e-a-h, I think I can do this” she says staring up at the ceiling of an empty dining room almost as big as her present-day apartment. She seems to be trying to convince someone not in the room, someone she confides in,

Abstraccident #1

that she’s ready for a big change in her life, and yet she’s not sure herself if “this” is what she really wants. She certainly hasn’t convinced me.

That’s the last scene from a very long dream I had a few hours ago. The dream took the form of a so-called-reality show in which some entrepreneurs, social innovators and maybe inventors were competing for the opportunity to live in a mansion next to a research university, I guess to further their ideas. The woman in question appears to be the romantic partner of the winning competitor; she wasn’t in the rest of the dream. He ends up starting something new, but is this opportunity, this move, the best one for her?

Why am I writing about this? I rarely remember dreams long enough to write them down in any detail. In fact, I’m used to having dreams that for me are just too bizarre or abstract to make any sense at all, so I usually just don’t bother remembering, much less recording them. This dream’s a little different: there’s at least a linear progression of events, even though at first they don’t seem to apply to me. I’m not an entrepreneur, for instance, nor am I currently “involved” with anyone who is. Maybe I just happened to eavesdrop on someone else’s dilemma-induced dream. Is that possible?

Anyway, I started to reflect on the woman’s “big-empty-room” dilemma, and realized it could just as easily be mine. Seven years ago, I jumped in my 30s into a big empty room called post-secondary education. I have no regrets for having done so – it’s been the best experience of my life. (In fact, I’m starting to think university is wasted on anyone under the age of 30. People coming out of high school ought to spend a few years working at some really stupid jobs so they can appreciate the value of thinking analytically, critically and creatively, and how those skills can be applied to making human life more humane. But I digress…) Now, other empty rooms of various sizes appear: genuinely interesting work (hah!); graduate study; keeping up with my writing; maybe travel; maybe “all of the above”.

So what does the ‘big empty room’ open up to: an opportunity, a trapdoor, or a space to reflect on what’s really important? On what might seem an unrelated note, I was watching “Lost in Translation” last night, and I noticed how the vertical intensity of space in Tokyo is captured by the camera, and how the two main characters (both Americans) seemed to look longingly across the city’s expanse from their top-floor hotel room windows. From another angle, I thought that perhaps Japanese tourists like the vast openness of places like the Rockies so much because they out of necessity live in small spaces that challenge their creativity and imagination, and yet have learned to appreciate the space beyond the walls, and the capacity of that space to inspire reflection. A lesson for us North Americans, perhaps? I guess I’d like door number 3, Monty Hall.

If, in my dream I did in fact eavesdrop on someone else’s dilemma, I hope she chose the space, whatever the size, that best inspires her creativity and imagination.

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